Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Aikenside by Mary J. Holmes

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BURDEN.

Grandma Markham was dead, and the covered sleigh, which late in the
afternoon plowed its way heavily back to Aikenside, carried only Mrs.
Noah, who, with her forehead tied up in knots, sat back among the
cushions, thinking not of the peaceful dead, gone forever to the rest
which remains for the people of God, but of the wayward Guy, who had
resisted all her efforts to persuade him to return with her, instead
of staying where he was, not needed, and where his presence was a
restraint to all save one, and that one Maddy, for whose sake he
stayed.

"She'd be vummed," the indignant old lady said, "if she would not
write to Lucy herself if Guy did not quit such doin's," and thus
resolving she kept on her way, while the subject of her wrath was, it
may be, more than half repenting of his decision to stay, inasmuch as
he began to have an unpleasant consciousness of himself being in
everybody's way.

In the first hour of Maddy's bereavement he had not spoken with her,
but had kept himself aloof from the room where, with her grandfather
and Uncle Joseph, she sat, holding the poor aching head of the latter
in her lap and trying to speak a word of consolation to the old,
broken-hearted man, whose hand was grasped in hers. But Maddy knew he
was there. She could hear his voice each time he spoke to Mrs. Noah,
and that made the desolation easier to bear. She did not look forward
to the time when he would be gone; and when at last he told her he was
going, she started quickly, and with a gush of tears, exclaimed: "No,
no! oh, no!"

"Maddy," Guy whispered, bending over the strange trio, "would you
rather I should stay? Will it be pleasanter for you, if I do?"

"Yes--I don't know. I guess it would not be so lonely. Oh, it's
terrible to have grandmother dead!" was Maddy's response; after which
Guy would have stayed if a whole regiment of Mrs. Noah's had
confronted him instead of one.

Maddy wished it; that was reason enough for him; and giving a few
directions to John, he stayed, thereby disconcerting the neighboring
women who came in to perform the last offices for the dead, and who
wished the young man from Aikenside was anywhere but there, watching
them in all their movements, as they vainly fancied he did. But Guy
thought only of Maddy, watching her so carefully that more than one
meaning glance was exchanged between the women, who, even over the
inanimate form of the dead, spoke together of what might possibly
occur, wondering what would be the effect on Grandpa Markham and Uncle
Joseph. Who would take care of them? And then, in case Maddy should
feel it her duty to stay there, as they half hoped she would, they
fell to pitying the young girl, who seemed now so wholly unfitted for
the burden.

To Maddy there came no definite idea of the future during the two days
that white, rigid form lay in the darkened cottage; but when, at last,
the deep grave made for Grandma Markham was occupied, and the lounge
in the little front room was empty--when the Aikenside carriage, which
had been sent down for the use of the mourners, had been driven away,
taking both Guy and Mrs. Noah--when the neighbors, too, had gone,
leaving only herself and the little hired girl sitting by the evening
fire, with the grandfather and the imbecile Uncle Joseph--then it was
that she first began to fed the pressure of the burden--began to ask
herself if she could live thus always, or at least for many years--as
long as either of the two helpless men were spared. Maddy was young,
and the world as she had seen it was very bright and fair, brighter
far than a life of laborious toil, and for a while the idea that the
latter alternative must be accepted made her dizzy and faint.

As if divining her thoughts, poor old grandpa, in his prayers that
night, asked in trembling tones, which showed how much he felt what he
was saying, that God would guide his darling in all she did, and give
her wisdom to make the proper decision; that if it were best she might
be happy there with them, but if not, "Oh, Father, Father!" he sobbed,
"help me and Joseph to bear it." He could pray no more aloud, and the
gray head remained bowed down upon his chair, while Uncle Joseph, in
his peculiar way, took up the theme, begging like a very child that
Maddy might be inclined to stay--that no young men with curling hair,
a diamond cross, and smell of musk, might be permitted to come near
her with enticing looks, but that she might stay as she was and die an
old maid forever! This was the subject of Uncle Joseph's prayer, a
prayer which set the little hired girl to tittering, and would have
wrung a smile from Maddy herself had she not felt all the strange
petition implied.

With waywardness natural to people in his condition, Uncle Joseph that
night turned to Maddy for the little services his sister had formerly
rendered, and which, since her illness, Grandpa Markham had done, and
would willingly do still. But Joseph refused to let him. Maddy must
untie his cravat, unbutton his vest, and take off his shoes, while,
after he was in bed, Maddy must sit by his side, holding his hand
until he fell away to sleep. And Maddy did it cheerfully, soothing him
into quiet, and keeping back her own choking sorrow for the sake of
comforting him. Then, when this task was done she sought her
grandfather, still sitting before the kitchen fire and evidently
waiting for her. The little hired girl had retired, and thus there was
no barrier to free conversation between them.

"Maddy," the old man said, "come sit close by me, where I can look
into your face, while we talk over what must be done."

With a half shudder, Maddy drew a stool to her grandfather's feet, and
resting her head upon his knee, listened while he talked to her of the
future; told her all her grandmother had done; told of his own
helplessness; of the trial it was to care for Uncle Joseph, and then
in faltering tones asked who was going to look after them now. "We
can't live here alone, Maddy. We can't. We're old and weak, and want
some one to lean on. Oh, why didn't God take us with her, Joseph and
me, and that would leave you free, to go back to the school and the
life which I know is pleasanter than to stay here with us. Oh, Maddy!
it comforts me to look at you--to hear your voice, to know that though
I don't see you every minute, you are somewhere, and by and by you'll
come in. I shan't live long, and maybe Joseph won't. God's promise is
to them who honor father and mother. It'll be hard for you to stay,
harder than it was once; but, Maddy, oh, Maddy! stay with me, stay
with me!--stay with your old grandpa!"

In his earnestness he grasped her arm, as if he thus would hold her,
while the tears rained over his wrinkled face. For a moment Maddy made
no response. She had no intention of leaving him, but the burden was
pressing heavily and her tongue refused to move. Maddy was then a
stranger to the religion which was sustaining her grandfather in his
great trouble, but the teachings of her childhood had not been in
vain. She was God's covenant child. His protecting presence was over
and around her, moving her to the right. New York, with its gay
sights, her school, where in another year she was to graduate, the
trip to the Catskills which Guy had promised Mrs. Agnes, Jessie and
herself, Aikenside with its luxurious ease--all these must be given
up, while, worse than all the rest, Guy, too, must be given up. He
would not come there often; the place was not to his taste, and in
time he would cease to care for her as he cared for her now. "Oh, that
would be dreadful!" she groaned aloud, while here thoughts went
backward to that night ride in the snowstorm, and the numberless
attentions he had paid her then. She would never ride with him
again--never; and Maddy moaned bitterly, as she began to realize
for the first time how much she liked Guy Remington, and how the
giving him up and his society was the hardest part of all. But Maddy
had a brave young heart, and at last, winding her arms around her
grandfather's neck, she whispered: "I will not leave you, grandpa.
I'll stay in grandmother's place."

Surely Heaven would answer the blessings whispered over Maddy by the
delighted old man, and the young girl taking so cheerfully the burden
from which many would have shrunk, should be blessed by God.

With her grandfather's hand upon her head, Maddy could almost feel
that the blessing was descending; but when, in her own room, the one
where she had lain sick for so many weary weeks, her courage began to
give way, and the burden, magnified tenfold by her nervous weakness,
looked heavier than she could bear. How could she stay there, going
through each day with the same routine of literal drudgery--drudgery
which would not end until the two for whom she made the sacrifice were
dead.

"Oh, is there no way of escape, no help?" she moaned, as she tossed
from side to side, "Must my life be wasted here. Surely---"

Maddy did not finish the sentence, for something checked the words of
repining, and she seemed to hear again her grandfather's voice as it
repeated the promise to those who keep with their whole souls the
fifth commandment.

"I will, I will," she cried, while into her heart there crept an
intense longing for the love of him who alone could make her task a
light one. "If I were good like grandma, I could bear everything," she
thought, and turning upon her pillow, Maddy prayed an earnest,
childlike prayer, that God would help her do night, that He would take
from her the proud spirit which rebelled against her lot because of
its loneliness, that pride and love of her own ease and advancement in
preference to others' good might all be subdued; in short that she
might be God's child, walking where He appointed her to walk without a
murmur, and doing cheerfully His will.

Aikenside, and school, and the Catskill Mountains were easier to
abandon after that contrite prayer; but when she thought of Guy, the
fiercest, sharpest pang she had ever felt shot through her heart,
making her cry out so quickly that the little hired girl who shared
her bed moved as if about to waken, but Maddy lay very quiet until all
was still again, when turning a second time to God she tried to pray,
tried to give up what to her was the dearest idol, but she could not
say the words, and ere she knew what she was doing she found herself
asking that Guy should not forsake her. "Let him come," she sobbed,
"let Guy come some time to see me".

Once the tempter whispered to her, that had she accepted Dr. Holbrook
she would have been spared all this, but Maddy turned a deaf ear to
that suggestion. Dr. Holbrook was too noble a man to have an unloving
wife, and not for a moment did she repent of her decision with regard
to him. She almost knew he would say now that she was right in
refusing him, and right in staying there, as she must. Thoughts of the
doctor quieted her, she believed, not knowing that Heaven was already
owning its submissive child, and breathing upon it a soothing
benediction. The moan of the winter wind and the sound of the snow
beating against her little window ceased to annoy her. Heaven,
happiness, Aikenside and Guy, all seem blended into one great good
just within her reach, and when the long clock below the stairs struck
three, she did not hear it, but with the tear stains upon her face she
lay nestled among her pillows, dreaming that her grandmother had come
back from the bright world of glory to bless her darling child.

It was broad noon ere Maddy awoke, and starting up she looked about
her in bewilderment, wondering where she was and what agency had been
at work in her room, transforming it from the cold, comfortless
apartment she had entered the previous night into the cheery-looking
chamber, with a warm fire blazing in the tiny fireplace, a rug spread
down upon the hearth, a rocking-chair drawn up before it, and all
traces of the little hired girl as completely obliterated as if she
had never been. In her grief Maddy seemed to have forgotten how to
make things cozy, and as, during her grandmother's illness, her own
room had been left to the care of the hired girl, Nettie, it wore a
neglected, rude aspect, which had grated on Maddy's finer feelings,
and made everything so uninviting. But this morning all was changed.
Some skillful hand had been busy there while she slept, and Maddy was
wondering who it could be, when the door opened cautiously and Flora's
good-humored face looked in--Flora from Aikenside. Maddy knew now to
whom she was indebted for all this comfort, and with a cry of joy she
welcomed the girl, whose very presence brought back something of the
life with which she had parted forever.

"Flora," she exclaimed, "how came you here, and did you make this fire
and fix the room for me?"

"Yes, I made the fire," Flora replied, "and fixed up the things a
little, hustlin' that young one's goods out of here; because it was
not fittin' for you to be sleepin' with her. Mr. Guy was mad enough
when he found it out."

"Mr. Guy, Flora? How should he know of our sleeping "rrangements?"
Maddy asked, but Flora evaded a direct reply, saying, "there was
enough ways for things to get to Aikenside;" then continuing, "How
tired you must be, Miss Maddy, to sleep so sound as never to hear me
at all, though to be sure I tried to be still as a mouse. But let me
help you dress. It's all but noon, and you must be hungry. I've got
your breakfast all ready."

"Thank you, Flora, I can dress myself," Maddy said, stepping out upon
the floor, and feeling that the world was not as dark as it had seemed
to her when last night she came up to her chamber.

God was comforting her already, and as she made her simple toilet, she
tried to thank Him for His goodness, and ask for grace to make her
what she ought to be.

"You have not yet told me why you came here," she said to Flora, who
was busy making her bed, and who replied: "It's Mr. Guy's work. He
thought I'd better come, as you would need help to get things set to
rights, to could go back to school."

Maddy felt her heart coming up in her throat, but she answered calmly,
"Mr. Guy is very kind--so are you all; but, Flora, I am not going back
to school." "Not going back!" and Flora stopped her bed-making, while
she stared blankly at Maddy. "What be you going to do?" "Stay here and
take care of grandpa," Maddy said, bathing her face and neck in the
cold water, which could not cool the feverish heat she felt spreading
all over them. "Stay here! You are crazy, Miss Maddy! 'Tain't no place
for a girl like you, and Mr. Guy never will suffer it, I know," Flora
rejoined, as she resumed her work, thinking she "should die to be
moped up in that nutshell of a house." With a little sigh as she
foresaw the opposition she should probably meet with from Guy, Maddy
went on with her toilet, which was soon completed, as it did not take
long to arrange the dark calico dress and plain linen collar which she
wore. She was not as fresh-looking as usual that morning, for
excitement and fatigue had lent a paleness to her cheek, and a languor
to her whole appearance, but Flora, who glanced anxiously after her as
she went out, muttered to herself, "She was never more beautiful, and
I don't wonder an atom that Mr. Guy thinks so much of her." The
kitchen was in perfect order, for Flora had been busy there as
elsewhere. The kettle was boiling on the stove, while two or three
little covered dishes were ranged upon the hearth, as if waiting for
some one. Grandpa Markham had gone out, but Uncle Joseph sat in his
accustomed corner, rubbing his hands when he saw Maddy, and nodding
mysteriously toward the front room, the door of which was open, so
that Maddy could hear the fire crackling on the hearth.

"Go in, go in," Uncle Joseph said, waving his hand in that direction.
"My Lord Governor is in there waiting for you. He won't let me spit on
the floor any more as Martha did, and I've swallowed so much that I'm
almost choked."

Continual spitting was one of Uncle Joseph's worst habits, and as his
sister had indulged him in it, it had become a source of great
annoyance both to Maddy, and to some one else of whose proximity Maddy
did not dream. Thinking that Uncle Joseph referred to her grandfather,
and feeling glad that the latter had attempted a reform, she entered
the room known at the cottage as the parlor, the one where the rag
carpet was, the six cane-seated chairs and the Boston rocker, and
where now the little round table was nicely laid for two, while cozily
seated in the rocking-chair, reading last night's paper, and looking
very handsome and happy, was Guy!

When Maddy prayed that he might come and see her she did not expect an
answer so soon, and she started back in much surprise, while Guy came
easily forward to greet her, asking how she was, once telling her she
looked tired and thin, then making her take the chair he had vacated,
he stood over her, smoothing her hair, while he continued:

"I have taken some liberties, you see, and have made myself quite at
home. I knew how unaccustomed you were to the duties of a house, and
as I saw that girl was wholly incompetent, I denied myself at least
two hours' sleep this morning for the sake of getting here early,
bringing Flora with me and a few things which I thought would be for
your comfort. You must excuse me, but Flora looked so cold when she
came down from your chamber, where I sent her to see how you were,
that with your grandfather's permission I ordered a fire to be kindled
there. I hope you found it comfortable. This house is very cold."

He kept talking on, and Maddy in a delicious kind of bewilderment
listened to him, wondering if ever before there was a person so kind
and good as Guy. And really Guy was doing great violence to his pride
by being there as he was, but he could do anything for Maddy, and so
he had forced down his pride, trying for her sake to make the cottage
as pleasant as possible. With Flora to assist he had succeeded
wonderfully, and was really enjoying it himself. At first Maddy could
not thank him, her heart was so full, but Guy was satisfied with the
expression of her face, and calling Flora he bade her serve the
breakfast.

"You know my habits," he said, smilingly, as he took a seat at the
table, "and breakfasting at daylight, as I did, has given me an
appetite; so, with your permission, I'll carve this nice bit of steak
for you, while you pour me a cup of coffee, some of Mrs. Noah's best.
She"--Guy was going to say, "sent it," but as no stretch of the
imagination could construe her "calling him a fool" into sending Maddy
coffee, he added instead, "I brought it from Aikenside, together with
this strawberry jelly, of which I remember you were fond;" and he
helped Maddy lavishly from the fanciful jelly jar which yesterday was
adorning the sweetmeat closet at Aikenside.

How chatty and social he was, trying to cheer Maddy up and make her
forget that such a thing as death had so lately found entrance there;
talking of Jessie, of Aikenside, of the pleasant little time they
would have during the vacation, and of the next term at school, when
Maddy, as one of the graduating class, would not be kept in as
strictly as heretofore, but allowed to see more of the city. Maddy
felt as if she should die for the pain tugging at her heart, while she
listened to him and knew that the pictures he was drawing were not for
her. Her place was there; and after the breakfast was over and Flora
had cleared the dishes away, she shut the door, so that they might be
alone, and then standing before Guy, she told him of her resolution,
begging of him to help her and not make it harder to bear by devising
means for her to escape what she felt to be an imperative duty. Guy
had expected something like this and was prepared, as he thought, to
combat all her arguments; so when she had finished, he replied that of
course he did not wish to interfere with her duty, but there might be
a question as to what really was her duty, and it seemed to him he was
better able to judge of that than herself. It was not right for her to
bury herself there while her education was unfinished, when another
could do as well. Her superior talents were given to her to improve,
and how could she improve them in Honedale; besides her grandfather
did not expect her to stay. Guy had talked with him while she was
asleep, and the matter was all arranged; a competent woman was to be
hired to take charge of the domestic arrangements, and if it seemed
desirable, two should be procured; anything to leave Maddy free.

"And grandpa consented to this willingly?" Maddy said, feeling a throb
of pleasure at thoughts of release. But Guy could not answer that the
grandfather consented willingly.

"He thinks it best. When he comes back you can ask him yourself," he
said, just as Uncle Joseph, opening the door, brought their interview
to a close by asking very meekly, "if it would please the Lord
Governor to let him spit!"

The blood rushed at once to Maddy's face, and she not repress a smile,
white Guy laughed aloud, saying to her softly: "For your sake, I tried
my skill to stop what I knew must annoy you. Pardon me if I did
wrong;" then turning to Uncle Joseph, he gave the desired permission,
together with the promise of a handsome spittoon, which should be sent
down on the morrow. With a bow Uncle Joseph turned away, muttering to
himself, "High doings now Martha's gone; but new lords, new laws. I
trust he's not going to live here;" and slyly he asked Flora if the
Lord Governor had brought his things!

At this point Grandpa Markham came in, and to him Guy appealed at once
to know if he were not willing for Maddy to return to school.

"I said she might if she thought best," was the reply, spoken so sadly
that Maddy's arms were at once twined around the old man's neck, while
she said to him:

"Tell me honestly which you prefer. I'd like so much to go to school,
but I am not sure I should be happy there, knowing how lonely you were
here at home. Say, grandpa, which would you rather now, honor bright?"
and Maddy tried to speak playfully, though her heart-beats were almost
audible as she waited for the answer.

Grandpa could not deceive. He wanted his darling sorely, and he wanted
her to be happy, he said. Perhaps they would get on just as well
without her. When Mr. Guy was talking it looked as if they might, he
made it all so plain, but the sight of Maddy was a comfort. She was
all he had left. Maybe he shouldn't live long to pester her, and if he
didn't wouldn't she always feel better for having stayed with her old
grandpa to the last?

He looked very pale and thin, and his hair was white as snow. He could
not live many years, and turning resolutely from Guy, who, so long as
he held her eye, controlled her, Maddy said:

"I've chosen once for all. I'll stay with grandpa till he dies," and
with a convulsive sob she clung tightly to his neck, as if fearful
that without such told on him her resolution would give way.

It was in vain that Guy strove to change Maddy's resolution. She was
wholly decided, and late in the afternoon he rode back to Aikenside, a
disappointed man, with, however, the feeling that Maddy had done
right, and that he respected her all the more for withstanding the
temptation.

CHAPTER XIX.

LIFE AT THE COTTAGE.

It was arranged that Flora should for the present at least remain at
the cottage, and Maddy accepted the kindness gratefully. She had
become so much accustomed to being cared for by Guy that she almost
looked upon it as a matter of course, and did not think of what others
might possibly say, but when, in as delicate a manner as possible Guy
suggested furnishing the cottage in better style, even proposing to
modernize it entirely in the spring, Maddy objected at once. "They
were already indebted to him for more than they could ever pay," she
said, and she would not suffer it. So Guy submitted, though it grated
upon his sense of the beautiful and refined terribly, to see Maddy
amid so humble surroundings. Twice a week, and sometimes oftener, he
rode down to Honedale, and Maddy felt that without these visits life
would hardly have been endurable.

During the vacation Jessie spent a part of the time with her, but
Agnes resolutely resisted all Guy's entreaties that she would at least
call once on Maddy, who had expressed a wish to see her, and who, on
account of her grandfather's health, and the childishness with which
Uncle Joseph clung to her, could not well come up to Aikenside. Agnes
would not go down, neither would she give other reason for her
obstinacy than the apparently foolish one that she did not wish to see
the crazy man. Still she did not object to Jessie's going as often as
she liked, and she sent by her many little delicacies from the larder
at Aikenside, some for grandpa, but most for Uncle Joseph, who prized
highly everything coming from "the madam," and sent back to her more
than one strangely worded message which made the proud woman's eyes
overflow when sure that no one could see her. But this kind of
intercourse came to an end at last. The vacation was over, Jessie had
gone back to school, and Maddy began in sober earnest the new life
before her. Flora, it is true, relieved her of all household drudgery,
but no one could share the burden of care and anxiety pressing so
heavily upon her, anxiety for her grandfather, whose health seemed
failing so fast, and who always looked so disturbed if a shadow were
resting on her bright face, or her voice were less cheerful in its
tone, and care for the imbecile Joseph, who clung to her as a puny
child clings to its mother, refusing to be cared for by any one else,
and often requiring of her more than her strength could endure for a
great length of time. She it was who gave him his breakfast in the
morning, amused him through the day, and then, after he was in bed at
night, often sat by his side till a late hour, singing to him old
songs, or telling Bible stories until he fell away to sleep. Then if
he awoke, as he frequently did, there was a cry for Maddy, and the
soothing process had to be repeated, until the tired, pale watcher
ceased to wonder that her grandmother had died so suddenly, wondering
rather that she had lived so long and borne so much.

Those were dark, wearisome days to Maddy, and the long, cold winter
was gone from the New England hills, and the early buds of spring were
coming up by the cottage door, the neighbors began to talk of the
change which had come over the young girl, once so full of life and
health, but now so languid and pale. Still Maddy was not unhappy, nor
was the discipline too severe, for by it she learned at last the great
object of life; learned to take her troubles and cares to One who
helped her bear them so cheerfully, that those who pitied her most
never dreamed how heavy was her burden, so patiently and sweetly she
bore it. Occasionally there came to her letters from the doctor, but
latterly they gave her less pleasure than pain, for as sure as she
read one of his kind, friendly messages of sympathy and remembrance,
the tempter whispered to her that though she did not love him as she
ought to love her husband, yet a life with him was far preferable to
the life she was living, and a receipt of his letters always gave her
a pang which lasted until Guy came down to see her, when it usually
disappeared. Agnes was now at Aikenside, and thus Maddy frequently had
Jessie at the cottage, but Agnes never came, and Maddy little guessed
how often the proud woman cried herself to sleep after listening to
Jessie's recital of all Maddy had to do for the crazy man, and how
patiently she did it. He had taken a fancy that Maddy must tell him
stories of Sarah, describing her as she was now, not as she used to be
when he knew her, but now. "What is she now? How does she look? What
does she wear? Tell me, tell me!" he would plead, until Maddy, forced
to tell him something, and having distinctly in her mind but one
fashionable woman such as she fancied Sarah might be, told him of
Agnes Remington, describing her as she was in her mature beauty, with
her heavy flowing curls, her brilliant color, her flashing diamonds
and costly laces, and Uncle Joseph, listening to her with parted lips
and hushed breath, would whisper softly, "Yes, that's Sarah, beautiful
Sarah; but tell me--does she ever think of me, or of that time in Hie
orchard when I wove the apple blossoms in her hair, where the diamonds
are now? She loved me then; she told me so. Does she know how sick,
and sorry, and foolish I am?--how the aching in my poor, simple brain
is all for her, and how you, Maddy, are doing for me what it is her
place to do? Had I a voice," and the crazy man now grew excited, as,
raising himself in bed, he gesticulated wildly, "had I a voice to
reach her, I'd cry shame on her, to let you do her work, let you-wear
your young life and fresh, bright beauty all away for me, whom she
ruined."

The voice he craved, or the echo of it, did reach her, for Jessie had
been present when the fancy first seized him to hear of Sarah, and in
the shadowy twilight she told her mother all, dwelling most upon the
touching sadness of his face when he said, "Does she know how sick and
sorry I am?"

The pillow which Agnes pressed that night was wet with tears, while in
her heart was planted a germ of gratitude and respect for the young
girl doing her work for her. All that she could do for Maddy without
going directly to her, she did, devising many articles of comfort,
sending her fruit and flowers, the last new book, or whatever else she
thought might please her, and always finding a willing messenger in
Guy. He was miserable, and managed when at home to make others so
around him. The sight of Maddy bearing her burden so uncomplainingly
almost maddened him. Had she fretted or complained could bear it
better, he said, but he did not see the necessity for her to lose all
her spirit or interest in everything and everybody. Once when he
hinted as much to Maddy, he had been awed into silence by the subdued
expression of her face as she told him in part what it was which
helped her to bear and made the rough places so smooth. He had seen
something like this in Lucy, when paroxysms of pain were racking her
delicate frame, but he could not understand it; he only knew it was
something he could not touch--something against which his arguments
beat helplessly, and so, with an added respect for Maddy Clyde, he
smothered his impatience, and determining to help her all he could,
rode down to Honedale every day, instead of twice a week, as he had
done before.

Attentions so marked could not fail to be commented upon; and while
poor, unsuspecting Maddy was deriving so much comfort from his daily
visits, deeming that day very long which did not bring him to her, the
Honedale gossips, of which there were many, were busy with her
affairs, talking them over at their numerous tea-drinkings, discussing
them in the streets, and finally at a quilting, where they met in
solemn conclave, deciding, that, "for a girl like Maddy Clyde it did
not look well to have so much to do with that young Remington, who,
everybody knew, was engaged to a somebody in England."

"Yes, and would have been married long ago, if it wasn't for this
foolin' with Maddy," chimed in Mrs. Joel Spike, throwing the chalk
across the quilt to her sister, Tripheny Marvel, who wondered if Maddy
thought he'd ever have her.

"Of course he wouldn't. He knew what he was about. He was not green
enough to marry Grandpa Markham's daughter; and if she didn't look
out, she'd get herself into a pretty scrape. It didn't look well,
anyhow, for her to be putting on airs, as she had done ever since big
folks took her up, and she guessed she wouldn't be beholden to nobody
for her larnin'."

All this and much more was discussed, and by the time the patchwork
thing was done, there remained but little to be said either for or
against Guy Remington and Maddy Clyde which had not been said by
either friend or foe.

Among the invited guests at that quilting was the wife of Farmer
Green, Maddy's warmest friend in Honedale, and the one who did her
best to defend her against the attacks of those whose remarks she well
knew were caused more by envy than any personal dislike to Maddy, who
used to be so much of a pet until her superior advantages separated
her in a measure from them. Good Mrs. Green was sorely tried. Without
in the least blaming Maddy, she, too, had been troubled at the
frequency of Guy's Visits to the cottage. It was not friendship alone
which took him there, she was sure; and knowing that he was engaged,
she feared for Maddy's happiness at first, and afterward, when people
began to talk, she feared for her good name. Something must be done,
and though she dreaded it greatly, she was the one to do it.
Accordingly, next day she started for the cottage, which Guy had just
left, and this, in her opinion, accounted for the bright color in
Maddy's cheek and the sparkle in her eye. Guy had been there, bringing
and leaving a world of sunshine, but, alas, his chances for coming
ever again as he had done were fearfully small, when, at the close of
Mrs. Green's well-meant visit, Maddy lay on her bed, her white,
frightened face buried in the pillows, and herself half wishing she
had died before the last hour had come, with the terrible awakening it
had brought; awakening to the fact that of all living beings, Guy
Remington was the one she loved the best--the one without whose
presence it seemed to her she could not live, but without which she
now knew she must.

With the best of intentions Mrs. Green had made a bungle of the whole
affair, but had succeeded in giving Maddy a general impression that
folks were talking awfully about Guy's coming there, and doing for her
so much like an accepted lover, when everybody knew he was engaged,
and wouldn't be likely to marry a poor girl if he wasn't; that unless
she wanted to be ruined teetotally, and lose all her friends, she must
contrive to stop his visits, and not see him so much.

"Yes, I'll do anything, only please leave me now," Maddy gasped, her
face as white as ashes and her eyes fixed pleadingly upon Mrs. Green,
who, having been young herself, guessed the truth, and, as she arose
to go, laid her motherly hand on Maddy's head, saving kindly:

"Poor child, it's hard to bear now, but you'll get over it in time."

"Get over it," Maddy moaned, as she shut and bolted the door after
Mrs. Green, and then threw herself upon the bed, "I never shall till I
die."

She almost felt that she was dying then, so desolate and so dreary the
future looked to her. What was life worth without Guy, and why had she
been thrown so much in his way; why permitted to love him as she knew
she did, if she must lose him now? Maddy could not cry; there was a
tightness about her eyes, and a keen, cutting pain about her heart as
she tried to pray for strength to do what was right--strength to cast
Guy Remington from her heart where it was a sin for him to be; and
then she asked to be forgiven for the wrong she had unwittingly done
to Lucy Atherstone, who trusted implicitly, and who, in her last
letter, had said:

"If I had not so much faith in Guy I should be jealous of one who has
so many opportunities for stealing his heart from me. But I trust you,
Maddy Clyde. You would not do a thing to harm me, I am sure, and to
lose Guy now, after these years of cruel waiting, would kill me."

Sweet Lucy, there was in her heart a faint stirring of fear lest
Maddy Clyde might be a shadow in her pathway, else she had never
written that to her. But Lucy's cause was safe in Maddy's hands.
Always too high-souled to do a treacherous act, she was now sustained
by another and holier principle, which of itself would have kept her
from the wrong. But for a few moments Maddy abandoned herself to the
bliss of fancying what it would be to be loved by Guy Remington, even
as she loved him. And as she thought, there crept into her heart the
certainty that in some degree he did love her; that his friendship was
more than a mere liking for the girl to whom he had been so kind. In
Lucy's absence she was essential to his happiness, and that was why he
sought her society so much. Remembering everything that had passed,
but more particularly the incidents of that memorable night ride to
Honedale with all that had followed since, she could not doubt it, and
softly to herself she whispered, "He loves me, he loves me," while
little throbs of joy beat all over her heart; but only for an instant,
and then the note of joy was changed to sorrow as she thought how she
must henceforth seek to kill that love, both for her own sake and
Lucy's. Guy must not come there any more. She could not bear it now,
even if the neighbors had never meddled with her. She could not see
him as she had done, and not betray her real feelings toward him. He
had been there that day; he would come again tomorrow. She could see
him now just as he would look coming up the walk, easy and self-
possessed, confident of his reception, his handsome face beaming all
over with kind thoughtfulness for her, and his voice full of tender
concern as he asked how she was, and bade Flora see that she did not
overtax herself, and all this must cease. She had seen it, heard it
for the last time. No wonder that Maddy's heart fainted within her, as
she thought how desolate, how dreary would be the days when Guy no
longer came. But the victory was gained at last, and strength imparted
for the task she had to do.

Going to the table she opened her portfolio, the gift of Guy, and with
her gold pen, also his gift, wrote to him what the neighbors were
saying, and that he must come there no more; at least, only once in a
great while, because if he did, she could not see him. Then, when this
was written, she went down to Uncle Joseph, beginning to call for her,
and sat by him as usual, singing to him the songs he loved so well,
and which this night pleased him especially, because the voice which
sang them was so plaintive, so full of woe. Would he never go to
sleep, or the hand which held hers so firmly relax its hold? Never, it
seemed to Maddy, who sat and sang, while the night-bird on a distant
tree, awakened by the low song, uttered a responsive note, and the
hours crept on to midnight. Human nature could endure no more, and
when the crazy man said to her, "Now sing of Him who died on Calvary,"
Maddy's answer was a gaping cry as she fell fainting on the pillow.

"It was only a nervous headache," she said to the frightened Flora,
who came at Uncle Joseph's call, and helped her young mistress up to
bed. "She should be better in the morning, and she would rather be
alone."

So Flora left her there, but went often to her door, until assured by
the low breathing sound that Maddy was sleeping at last. It was a
heavy sleep, and when Maddy awakened from it the pain in her temples
was there still; she could not rise, and half glad that she could not,
inasmuch as her illness would be a reason why she could not see Guy if
he came. She did not know he was here already, until she heard his
voice speaking to her grandfather. It was later than she imagined, and
he had ridden down early because he could not stay away.

"I can't see him, Flora," Maddy said, when the latter came up with the
message that Mr. Remington was there with his buggy, and asked if a
little ride would not do her good. "I can't see him, but give him
this," and she placed in Flora's hand the note, baptized with so many
tears and prayers, and the contents of which made Guy furious; not at
her, but at the neighbors, the inquisitive, envious, ignorant,
meddlesome neighbors, who had dared to talk of him, or to breathe a
suspicious word against Maddy Clyde. He would see; he would make them
sorry for it; they should take back every word; and they should beg
Maddy's forgiveness for the pain they had caused her.

All this, and much more, Guy thought, as with Maddy's note in his hand
he walked up and down the sitting-room, raging like a young lion, and
threatening vengeance upon everybody. This was not the first
intimation Guy had received of the people's gossip, for only that
morning Mrs. Noah had hinted that his course was not at all calculated
to do Maddy any good, while Agnes had repeated to him some things
which she had heard touching the frequency of his visits to Honedale;
but these were nothing to the calmly worded message which banished him
effectually from Maddy's presence. He knew Maddy, and he knew, she
meant what she wrote, but he could not have it so. He must see her; he
would see her; and so for the next half hour Flora was the bearer of
written messages to and from Maddy's room; messages of earnest
entreaty on the one hand, and of firm denial on the other. At last
Maddy wrote:

"If you care for me in the least, or for my respect, leave me, and do
not come again until I send for you. I am not insensible to your
kindness. I feel it all; but the world is nearer right than you
suppose. It does not look well for you to come here so much, and I
prefer that you should not. Justice to Lucy requires that you stay
away."

That ended it! That roused up Guy's pride, and writing back:

"You shall be obeyed. Good-by." He sprang into his buggy, and Maddy,
listening, with head and heart throbbing alike, heard him as he drove
furiously away.

Those were long, dreary days which followed, and but for her
grandfather's increasing feebleness Maddy would almost have died.
Anxiety for him, however, kept her from dwelling too much upon
herself, but the excitement sad the care wore upon her sadly, robbing
her eye of its luster and her cheek of its remaining bloom, making
even Mrs. Noah cry when she came one day with Jessie to see how they
were getting on. She had heard from Guy of his banishment, and now
that he stayed away, she was ready to step in; so she came, laden with
sympathy and other more substantial comforts brought from the
Aikenside larder.

Maddy was glad to see her, and for a time cried softly on her bosom,
while Mrs. Noah's tears kept company with hers. Not a word was said of
Guy, except when Jessie told her he was gone to Boston, and it was so
stupid at home without him.

With more than her ordinary discretion, Flora kept to herself what had
passed when Guy was last there, so Mrs. Noah knew nothing except what
he had told her, and what she read in Maddy's white, suffering face.
This last was enough to excite all her pity, and she treated the young
girl with the most motherly kindness saying all night, and herself
taking care of grandpa, who was now too ill to sit up. There seemed to
be no disease preying upon him, nothing save old age, and the loss of
one who for more than forty years had shared all his joy and sorrow.
He could not live without her, and one night, three weeks after Guy's
dismissal, he said to Maddy, as she was about to leave him:

"Sit with me, darling, for a little while, if you are not too tired.
Your grandmother seems near me to-night, and so does Alice, your
mother. Maybe I'll be with them before another day. I hope I may if
God is willing, and there's much I would say to you."

He was very pale, and the great sweat drops stood on his forehead and
under his white hair, but Maddy wiped them away and listened with a
breaking heart while the aged disciple almost home told her of the
peace, the joy, that shone around his pathway to the tomb, and of the
everlasting arm bearing him so gently over Jordan. Then he talked of
herself, blessing her for all she had been to him, telling her how
happy she had made his life since she came home to stay, and how for a
time he had ached so with fear lest she should choose to go back and
leave him to a stranger. "But my darling stayed with her old grandpa.
She'll never be sorry for it, never. I've tried you sometimes, I know,
for old folks ain't like young; but I'm sorry, Maddy, and you'll
forget it when I'm gone, darling Maddy, precious child;" and the
trembling hand rested caressingly on her bowed head as grandpa went on
to speak of his affairs, his little property which was hers after the
mortgage to Mr. Guy was paid. "I've kept up the interest," he said,
"but I could never get him to take any of the principal. I don't know
why he is so good to me. Tell him, Maddy, how I thanked and blessed
him just before I died; tell him how I used to pray for him every day
that he might choose the better part. And he will--I'm sure he will,
some day. He hasn't been here of late, and though my old eyes are dim,
I can see that your step has got slow, and your face whiter by many
shades, since he stayed away. Maddy, child, the dead tell no secrets,
and I shall soon be dead. Tell me, then, what it is between you two.
Does my girl love Mr. Guy?"

"Oh, grandpa! grandpa!" Maddy moaned, laying her head beside his own
on the pillow.

It would be a relief to talk with some one of that terrible pain,
which grew worse every day; of that intense longing just for one sight
of the beloved one; of Guy, still absent from Aikenside, wandering
nobody knew where; and so Maddy told the whole story, while the dying
man listened to her, and smoothing her silken hair, tried to comfort
her.

"The worst is not over yet," he said. "Guy will offer to make you his
wife, sacrificing Lucy for you, and if he does, what will my darling
do?"

Maddy's heart leaped up into her throat, and for a moment prevented
her from answering, for the thought of Guy's really offering to make
her his wife, to shield her from evil, to enfold her in his tender
love, made her giddy with joy. But it could not be, and she answered
through her tears:

"I shall tell him no."

"God bless my Maddy! She will tell him no for Lucy's sake, and God
will bring it right at last," the old man whispered, his voice growing
very faint and tremulous. "She will tell him no," he kept repeating,
until, rousing up to greater consciousness, he spoke of Uncle Joseph,
and asked what Maddy would do with him; would she send him back to the
asylum, or care for him there? "He will be happier here," he said,
"but it is asking too much of a young girl like you. He may live for
years."

"I do not know, grandpa. I hope I may do right. I think I shall keep
Uncle Joseph with me," Maddy replied, a shudder creeping over her as
she thought of living out all her youth and possibly middle age with a
lunatic.

But her grandfather's whispered blessings brought comfort with them,
and a calm quiet fell upon her as she sat there listening to the words
of prayer, and catching now and then her own name and that of Guy's.

"I am drowsy, Maddy. Watch while I sleep. Perhaps I'll never wake
again," grandpa said, and clasping Maddy's hands he fell away to
sleep, while Maddy kept her watch beside him, herself falling into a
troubled sleep, from which she was aroused by a clammy hand pressing
on her forehead, and Uncle Joseph's voice, which said: "Wake, my
child. There's been a guest here while you slumbered," and he pointed
to the rigid features of the newly dead.

CHAPTER XX.

THE BURDEN GROWS HEAVIER.

Of the days which followed, Maddy had no distinct consciousness. She
only knew that other hands than hers cared for the dead, that in the
little parlor a stiff, white figure lay, that neighboring women stole
in, treading on tiptoe, and speaking in hushed voices as they
consulted, not her, but Mrs. Noah, who had come at once, and cared for
her and hers so kindly. That she lay all day in her own room, where
the summer breeze blew softly through the window, bringing the perfume
of summer flowers, the sound of a tolling bell, of grinding wheels,
the notes of a low, sad hymn, sung in faltering tones, and of many
feet moving from the door. Then friendly faces looked in upon her,
asking how she felt, and whispering ominously to each other as she
answered:

"Very well; is grandpa getting better?"

Then Mrs. Noah sat with her for a time, fanning her with a palm-leaf
fan and brushing the flies away. Then Flora came up with a man whom
they called "Doctor," and who gave his sundry little pills and powders
dissolved in water, after which they all went out and left her there
with Jessie who had been crying, and whose soft little hands felt so
cool on her hot head, and whose kisses on her lips made the tears
start, and brought a thought of Guy, making her ask, "if he was at the
funeral." She did not know whose funeral, or why she used that word,
only it seemed to her that Jessie just came back from somebody's
grave, and she asked if Guy was there. "No," Jessie said; "mother
wanted to write and tell him, but we don't know where he is."

And this was all Maddy could recall of the days succeeding the night
of her last watch at her grandfather's side, until one balmy August
afternoon, when on the Honedale hills there lay that smoky haze so
like the autumn time hurrying on apace, and when through her open
window stole the fragrance of the later summer flowers. Then, as if
waking from an ordinary sleep, she woke suddenly to consciousness, and
staring about the room, wondered if it were as late as the western sun
would indicate, and how she came to sleep so long. For a while she lay
thinking, and as she thought, a sad scene came back to her, a night
when her hot hands had been enfolded in those of the dead, and that
dead her grandfather. Was it true, or was she laboring under some
hallucination of the brain? If true, was that white, placid face still
to be seen in the room below, or had they burial him from her sight?
She would know, and with a strange kind of nervous strength she arose,
and throwing on the wrapper and slippers which lay near, descended the
stairs, wondering to find herself so weak, and half shuddering at the
deep stillness of the house; stillness broken only by the ticking of
the clock and the purring of the house cat, which at sight of Maddy
arose from its position near the door and came forward, rubbing its
sides against her dress, and trying in various ways to evince its joy
at seeing one whose caresses it had missed so long. The little bedroom
off the kitchen where grandpa slept and died was vacant; the old
fashioned coat was put away, as was every vestige of the old man save
the broad-rimmed hat which hung upon the wall just where his hands had
hung it, and which looked so much like its owner that with a gush of
tears Maddy sank upon the bed, moaning to herself, "Yes, grandpa is
dead. I remember now. But Uncle Joseph, where is he? Can he too have
died without my knowledge? and she looked round in vain for the
lunatic, not a trace of whom was to be found. His room was in perfect
order, as was everything about the house, showing that Flora was still
the domestic goddess, while Maddy detected also various things which
she recognized as having come from Aikenside. Who sent them? Did Guy,
and had he been there too while she was sick? The thought brought a
throb of joy to Maddy's heart, but it soon passed away as she began
again to wonder if Uncle Joseph too had died, and where Flora was. It
was not far to the Honedale burying ground. Maddy could see the
headstones from where she sat gleaming through the August sunlight;
could discern her mother's, and knew that two fresh mounds at least
were made beside it. But were there three? Was Uncle Joseph there? By
stealing across the meadow in the rear of the house the distance to
the graveyard was shortened more than half, and could not be more than
the eighth part of a mile, She could walk so far, she knew. The fresh
air would do her good, and hunting up her long unused flat, the
impatient girl started, stopping once or twice to rest as a dizzy
faintness came over her, and then continuing on until the spot she
sought was reached, Three graves, one old and sunken, one made when
the last winter's snow was on the hills, the other fresh and new. That
was all, Uncle Joseph was not there, and vague terror entered Maddy's
heart lest he had been taken back to the asylum.

"I will get him out," she said; "I will take care of him. I should die
with nothing to do; and I promised grandpa----"

She could get no farther, for the rush of memories which came over
her, and seating herself upon the ground close to the new grave, she
laid her face upon it, and sobbed piteously:

"Oh, grandpa. I'm so lonely without you all; I almost wish I was lying
here in the quiet yard."

Then a storm of tears ensued, after which Maddy grew calm, and with
her head still bent low, did not hear the rapid step approaching, the
mans step coming down the grassy road, coming past the marble
tombstones, on to where that wasted figure was crouching upon the
ground. There it stopped, and in a half whisper called, "Maddy!
Maddy!" Then indeed she started, and lifting up her head saw before
her Guy Remington. For a moment she regarded him intently while he
said to her, oh so kindly, so pityingly.

"Poor child, you have suffered so much, and I never knew of it till a
few days ago."

At the sound of that loved voice speaking thus to her, everything else
was forgotten, and with a cry of joy Maddy stretched her hands toward
him, moaning out:

"Oh, Guy, Guy, where have you been, when I wanted you so much?"

Maddy did not know what she was saying, or half comprehend the effect
it had on Guy, who forgot everything save that she wanted him, had
missed him, had turned to him in her trouble, and it was not in his
nature to resist her appeal. With a spring he was at her side, and
lifting her in his arms seated himself upon her mother's grave; then
straining her tightly to his bosom, he kissed her again and again.
Hot, burning, passionate kisses they were, which took from Maddy all
power of resistance, even had she wished it, which she did not. Too
weak to reason, or see the harm, if harm there were, in being loved by
Guy, she abandoned herself for a brief interval to the bliss of
knowing that she was beloved, and of hearing him tell her so.

"Darling Maddy," he said, "I went away because you sent me, but now I
have come back, and nothing shall part us again. You are mine; I claim
you here at your mother's grave. Precious Maddy, I did not know of all
this till three days ago, when Agnes' letter found me almost at the
Rocky Mountains. I traveled day and night, reaching Aikenside this
morning, and coming straight to Honedale. I wish I had come before,
now that I know you wanted me. Say that again, Maddy. Tell me again
that you missed and wanted me."

He was smoothing her hair now, as her bead still lay pillowed upon his
breast, so he could not see the spasm of pain which contorted her
features as be thus appealed to her. Half bewildered, Maddy could not
at first make out whether it were a blissful dream or a reality, her
lying there in Guy's arms with his kisses on her forehead, lips and
cheek, his words of devotion in her ear, and the soft summer sky
smiling down upon her. Alas, it was a dream from which she was
awakened by the thought of one across the sea, whose place she had
usurped, and this it was which brought the grieved expression to her
face as she answered mournfully:

"I did want you, Guy, when I forgot; but now--oh, Guy--Lucy
Atherstone!"

With a gesture of impatience Guy was about to answer, when something
in the heavy fall of the little hand from his shoulder alarmed him,
and lifting up the drooping head he saw that Maddy had fainted. Then
back across the meadow Guy bore her to the cottage, where Flora, just
returned from a neighbor's, whither she had gone upon an errand, was
looking for her in much affright, and wondering who had come from
Aikenside with that wet, tired horse, showing so plainly how hard it
had been driven.

Up again into her little chamber Maddy was carried and laid upon the
bed, which she never left until the golden harvest sheaves were
gathered in, and the hot September sun was ripening the fruits of
autumn. But now she had a new nurse, a constant attendant, who during
the day seldom left her except to talk with and amuse Uncle Joseph,
mourning below because no one sang to him or noticed him as Maddy used
to do. He had not been sent to the asylum, as Maddy feared, but by way
of relieving Flora had been taken to Farmer Green's, where he was so
homesick and discontented that at Guy's instigation he was suffered to
return to the cottage, crying like a little child when the old
familiar spot was reached, kissing his armchair, the cook-stove, the
tongs, Mrs. Noah and Flora, and timidly offering to kiss the Lord
Governor himself, as he persisted in calling Guy, who declined the
honor, but listened quietly to the crazy man's promise "not to spit
the smallest kind of a spit on the floor, or anywhere, except in its
proper place."

Guy had passed through several states of mind during the interval in
which we have seen so little of him. Furious at one time, and reckless
as to consequences, he had determined to break with Lucy and marry
Maddy, in spite of everybody; then, as a sense of honor came over him,
he resolved to forget Maddy, if possible, and marry Lucy at once. It
was in this last mood, and while roaming over the Western country,
whither after his banishment he had gone, that he wrote to Lucy a
strange kind of letter, saying he had waited for her long enough, and
sick or well he should claim her the coming autumn. To this letter
Lucy had responded quickly, sweetly reproving Guy for his impatience,
softly hinting that latterly he had been quite as culpable as herself
in the matter of deferring their union and appointing the bridal day
for the--of December. After this was settled Guy felt better, though
the old sore spot in his heart, where Maddy Clyde had been, was very
sore still, and sometimes it required all his powers of self-control
to keep from writing to Lucy and asking to be released from an
engagement so irksome as his had become. Neglecting to answer Agnes'
letters when he first left home, she did not know where he was until a
short time before, when she wrote apprising him of grandpa's death and
Maddy's severe illness. This brought him, while Maddy's involuntary
outburst when she met him in the graveyard, changed the whole current
of his intentions. Let what would come, Maddy Clyde should be his wife
and as such he watched over her, nursing her back to life, and by his
manner effectually silencing all remark, so that the neighbors
whispered among themselves what Maddy's prospects were, and, as was
quite natural, were a very little more attentive to the future lady of
Aikenside. Poor Maddy! it was a terrible trial which awaited her, but
it must be met, and so with prayers and tears she fortified herself to
meet it, while Guy, the devoted lover, hung over her, never guessing
of all that was passing in her mind, or how, when he was out of sight,
the lips he had longed so much to kiss, but never had since that day
in the graveyard, quivered with anguish as they asked for strength to
do right. Oh, how Maddy did love the man she must give up, and how
often went up the wailing cry, "Help me, Father, to do my duty, and
give me, too, a greater inclination to do it than I now possess."

Maddy's heart did fail her sometimes, and she might have yielded to
the temptation but for Lucy's letter, full of eager anticipations of
the time when she should see Guy never to part again.

"Sometimes," she wrote, "there comes over me a dark foreboding of
evil--a fear that I shall miss the cup now within my reach; but I pray
the bad feelings away. I am sure there is no living being who will
come between us to break my heart, and as I know God doeth all things
well, I trust Him wholly, and cease to doubt."

It was well the letter came when it did, as it helped Maddy to meet
the hour she so much dreaded, and which came at last on an afternoon
when Mrs. Noah had gone to Aikenside, and Flora had gone on an errand
to a neighbor's, two miles away, thus leaving Guy free to tell the
story, the old, old story, yet always new to him who tells it and her
who listens--story which, as Guy told it, sitting by Maddy's side,
with her hands in his, thrilled her through and through, making the
sweat drops start out around her lips and underneath her hair--story
which made Guy himself pant nervously and tremble like a leaf, so
earnestly he told it; told how long he had loved her, of the picture
withheld, the jealousy he felt each time the doctor named her, the
selfish joy he experienced when he heard the doctor was refused; told
of his growing dissatisfaction with his engagement, his frequent
resolves to break it, his final decision, which that scene in the
graveyard had reversed, and then asked if she would not be his--not
doubtfully, but confidently, eagerly, as if sure of her answer.

Alas for Guy! he could not believe he heard aright when, turning her
head away for a moment while she prayed for strength, Maddy's answer
came, "I cannot, Guy, I cannot. I acknowledge the love which has
stolen upon me, I know not how, but I cannot do this wrong to Lucy.
Away from me you will love her again. You must. Read this, Guy, then
say if you can desert her."

She placed Lucy's letter in his hand, and Guy read it with a heart
which ached to its very core. It was cruel to deceive that gentle,
trusting girl writing so lovingly of him, but to lose Maddy was to his
undisciplined nature more dreadful still, and casting the letter aside
he pleaded again, this time with the energy of despair, for he read
his fate in Maddy's face, and when her lips a second time confirmed
her first reply, while she appealed to his sense of honor, of justice,
of right, and told him he could and must forget her, he knew there was
no hope, and man though he was, bowed his head upon Maddy's hands and
wept stormily, mighty, choking sobs, which shook his frame, and seemed
to break up the very fountains of his life. Then to Maddy there came a
terrible temptation. Was it right for two who loved as they did to
live their lives apart?--right in her to force on Guy the fulfillment
of vows he could not literally keep? As mental struggles are always
the more severe, so Maddy's took all her strength away, and for many
minutes she lay so white and still that Guy roused himself to care for
her, thinking of nothing then except to make her better.

It was a long time ere that interview ended, but when it did there was
on Maddy's face a peaceful expression, which only the sense of having
done right at the cost of a fearful sacrifice could give, while Guy's
bore traces of a great and crushing sorrow, as he went out from
Maddy's presence and felt that to him she was lost forever. He had
promised her he would do right; had said he would marry Lucy, being to
her what a husband should be; had listened while she talked of another
world, where they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and where
it would not be sinful for them to love each other, and as she talked
her face had shone like the face of an angel. He had held one of her
hands at parting, bending low his head, while she laid the other on it
as she blessed him, letting her snowy fingers thread his soft brown
hair and linger caressingly among his curly locks. But that was over
now. They had parted forever. She was lying where he left her, cold,
and white, and faint with dizzy pain. He was riding swiftly toward
Aikenside, his heart beats keeping time to the swift tread of his
horse's feet, and his mind a confused medley of distracted thoughts,
amid which two facts stood out prominent and clear-he had lost Maddy
Clyde, and had promised her to marry Lucy Atherstone.

For many days after that Guy kept his room, saying he was sick, and
refusing to see any one save Jessie and Mrs. Noah, the latter of whom
guessed in part what had happened, and imputing to him far more credit
than he deserved, petted and pitied and cared for him until he grew
weary of it, and said to her savagely: "You needn't think me so good,
for I am not. I wanted Maddy Clyde, and told her so, but she refused
me and made me promise to marry Lucy; so I'm going to do that very
thing--going to England in a few weeks, or as soon as Maddy is better,
and before the sun of this year sets I shall be a married man."

After this all Mrs. Noah's sympathy was in favor of Maddy, the good
lady making more than one pilgrimage to Honedale, where she expended
all her arguments trying to make Maddy revoke her decision; but Maddy
was firm in what she deemed right, and as her health began slowly to
improve, and there was no longer an excuse for Guy to tarry, he gave
out to the neighborhood that he was at last to be married, and started
for England the latter part of October, as unhappy and unwilling a
bridegroom, it may be, as ever wait after a bride.

CHAPTER XXL.

THE INTERVAL BEFORE THE MARRIAGE.

Maddy never knew how she lived through those bright, autumnal days,
when the gorgeous beauty of decaying nature seemed so cruelly to mock
her anguish. As long as Guy was there, breathing the same air with
herself, she kept up, vaguely conscious of a shadowy hope that
something would happen without her instrumentality, something to ease
the weight pressing so hard upon her. But when she heard that he had
really gone, that a line had been received from him after he was on
board the steamer, all hope died out of her heart, and had it been
right she would have prayed that she might die and forget how utterly
miserable she was.

At last there came to her three letters, one from Lucy, one from the
doctor, and one from Guy himself. Lucy's she opened first, reading of
the sweet girl's great happiness in seeing her darling boy again, of
her sorrow to find him so thin, and pale, and changed, in all save his
extreme kindness to her, his careful study of her wants, and evident
anxiety to please her in every respect. On this Lucy dwelt, until
Maddy's heart seemed to leap up and almost turn over in its casing, so
fiercely it throbbed and ached with anguish. She was out in the
beechen woods when she read the letter, and laying her face in the
grass she sobbed as she had never sobbed before.

The doctor's next was opened, and Maddy read with blinding tears that
which for a moment increased her pain and sent to her bleeding heart
an added pang of disappointment, or a sense of wrong done to her, she
could not tell which. Dr. Holbrook was to be married the same day with
Lucy, and to Lucy's sister, Margaret.

"Maggie, I call her," he wrote, "because that name is so much like my
first love, Maddy, the little girl who though I was too old to be her
husband, and so made me very wretched for a time, until I met and knew
Margaret Atherstone. I have told her of you, Maddy; I would not marry
her without, and she seems willing to take me as I am. We shall come
home with Guy, who is the mere wreck of what he was when I last saw
him. He has told me, Maddy, all about it, and though I doubly respect
you now, I cannot say that I think you did quite right. Better that
one should suffer than two, and Lucy's is a nature which will forget
far sooner than yours or Guy's. I pity you all."

This almost killed Maddy; she did not love the doctor, but the
knowledge that he was to marry another added to her misery, while what
he said of her decision was the climax of the whole. Had her sacrifice
been for nothing? Would it have been better if she had not sent Guy
away? It was anguish unspeakable to believe so, and the shadowy woods
never echoed to so bitter a cry of pain as that with which she laid
her head on the ground, and for a brief moment wished that she might
die. God pitied His child then, and for the next half hour she hardly
knew what she suffered.

There was Guy's letter yet to read, and with a listless indifference
she opened it, starting as there dropped into her lap a small _carte
de viste_, a perfect likeness of Guy, who sent it, he said, because
he wished her to have so much of himself. It would make him happier to
know she could sometimes look at him just as he should gaze upon her
dear picture after it was a sin to love the original. And this was all
the direct reference he made to the past except where he spoke of
Lucy, telling how happy she was, and how if anything could reconcile
him to his fate, it was the knowing how pure and good and loving was
the wife he was getting. Then he wrote of the doctor and Margaret,
whom he described as a dashing, brilliant girl, the veriest tease and
madcap in the world, and the exact opposite of Maddy.

"It is strange to me why he chose her after loving you," he wrote;
"but as they seem fond of each other, their chances of happiness are
not inconsiderable."

This letter, so calm, so cheerful in its tone, had a quieting effect
on Maddy, who read it twice, and then placing it in her bosom, started
for the cottage, meeting on the way with Flora who was seeking for her
in great alarm. Uncle Joseph had had a fit, she said, and fallen upon
the floor, cutting his forehead badly against the sharp point of the
stove. Hurrying on Maddy found that what Flora had said was true, and
sent immediately for the physician, who came at once, but shook his
head doubtfully as he examined his patient. There were all the
symptoms of a fever, he said, bidding Maddy prepare for the worst.
Nothing in the form of trouble could particularly affect Maddy now,
and perhaps it was wisely ordered that Uncle Joseph's illness should
take her thoughts from herself. Prom the very first he refused to take
his medicines from any one save her or Jessie, who with her mother's
permission stayed altogether at the cottage, and who, as Guy's sister,
was a great comfort to Maddy.

As the fever increased, and Uncle Joseph grew more and more delirious
his cries for Sarah were heartrending, making Jessie weep bitterly as
she said to Maddy:

"If I knew where this Sarah was I'd go miles on foot to find her and
bring her to him."

Something like this Jessie said to her mother when she went for a day
to Aikenside, asking her in conclusion if she thought Sarah would go.

"Perhaps," and Agnes brushed abstractedly her long, flowing hair,
winding it around her jeweled fingers, and then letting the soft curls
fall across her snowy arms.

"Where do you suppose she is?" was Jessie's next question, but if
Agnes knew, she did not answer, except by reminding her little
daughter that it was past her bedtime.

The next morning Agnes' eyes were very red, as if she had been wakeful
the entire night, while her white face fully warranted the headache
she professed to have.

"Jessie," she said, as they sat together at their breakfast, "I am
going to Honedale to-day, going to see Maddy, and shall leave you
here, as I do not care to have us both absent."

Jessie demurred a little at first, but finally yielded, wondering what
had prompted this visit to the cottage. Maddy wondered so, too, as
from the window she saw Agnes instead of Jessie alighting from the
carriage, and was conscious of a thrill of gratification that Agnes
would have come to see her. But Agnes' business concerned the sick
man, poor Uncle Joseph, who was sleeping when she came, and so did not
hear her voice as in the tidy kitchen she talked to Maddy, appearing
extremely agitated, and flashing her eyes rapidly from one part of the
room to another, resting now upon the tinware hung upon the wall and
now upon the gourd swimming in the water pail standing in the old-
fashioned sink, with the wooden spout, directly over the pile of
stones covering the drain. These things were familiar to the proud
woman; she had seen them before, and the sight of them now brought to
her a most remorseful regret for the past, while her heart ached
cruelly as she wished she had never crossed that threshold, or
crossing it had never brought ruin to one of its inmates. Agnes was
not the same woman whom we first knew. All hope of the doctor had long
since been given up, and as Jessie grew older the mother nature was
stronger within her, subduing her selfishness, and making her far more
gentle and considerate for others than she had been before. To Maddy
she was exceedingly kind, and never more so in manner than now, when
they sat talking together in the humble kitchen at the cottage.

"You look tired and sick," she said. "Your cares have been too much
for one not yet strong. Let me sit by him till he wakes, and you go up
to bed."

Very gladly Maddy accepted the offered relief, and utterly worn out
with her constant vigils, she was soon sleeping soundly in her own
room, while Flora, in the little shed, or back room of the house, was
busy with her ironing. Thus there was none to follow Agnes as she went
slowly into the sick-room where Uncle Joseph lay, his thin face
upturned to the light, and his lips occasionally moving as he muttered
in his sleep. There was a strange contrast between that wasted
imbecile and that proud, queenly woman, but she could remember a time
when the superiority was all upon his side, a time when in her
childish estimation he was the embodiment of every manly beauty, and
the knowledge that he loved her, his sister's little hired girl,
filled her with pride and vanity. A great change had come to them both
since those days, and Agnes, watching him and smothering back the cry
of pain which arose to her lips at sight of him, felt that for the
fearful change in him she was answerable. Intellectual, talented,
admired and sought by all he had been once; he was a mere wreck now,
and Agnes' breath came in short, quick gasps, as glancing furtively
around to see that no one was near, she laid her hand upon his
forehead, and parting his thin hair, said, pityingly: "Poor Joseph."

The touch awoke him, and starting up he stared wildly at her, while
some memory of the past seemed to be struggling through the misty
clouds, obscuring his mental vision.

"Who are you, lady? Who, with eyes and hair like hers?"

"I'm the `madam' from Aikenside," Agnes said, quite loudly, as Flora
passed the door. Then when she was gone she added, softly: "I'm Sarah.
Don't you know me? Sarah Agnes Morris."

It seemed for a moment to burst upon him in its full reality, and to
her dying day Agnes would never forget the look upon his face, the
smile of perfect happiness breaking through the rain of tears, the
love, the tenderness mingled with distrust, which that look betokened
as he continued gazing at her, but said to her not a word. Again her
hand rested on his forehead, and taking it now in his he held it to
the light, laughing insanely at its soft whiteness; then touching the
costly diamonds which flashed upon him the rainbow hues, he said:
"Where's that little bit of a ring I bought for you?"

She had anticipated this, and took from her pocket a plain gold ring,
kept until that day where no one could find it, and holding it up to
him, said: "Here it is. Do you remember it?"

"Yes, yes," and his lips began to quiver with a grieved, injured
expression. "He could give you diamonds, and I couldn't. That's why
you left me, wasn't it, Sarah--why you wrote that letter which made my
head into two? It's ached so ever since, and I've missed you so much,
Sarah! They put me in a cell where crazy people were--oh! so many--and
they said that I was mad, when I was only wanting you. I'm not mad
now, am I, darling?"

His arm was around her neck, and he drew her down until his lips
touched hers. And Agnes suffered it. She could not return the kiss,
but she did not turn away from his, and she let him caress her hair,
and wind it around his fingers, whispering: "This is like Sarah's, and
you are Sarah, are you not?"

"Yes, I am Sarah," she would answer, while the smile so painful to see
would again break over his face as he told how much he had missed her,
and asked if she had not come to stay till he died.

"There's something wrong," he said; "somebody dead, and seems as if
somebody else wanted to die--as if Maddy died ever since the Lord
Governor went away. Do you know Governor Guy?"

"I am his stepmother," Agnes replied, whereupon Uncle Joseph laughed
so long and loud that Maddy awoke, and, alarmed by the noise, came
down to see what was the matter.

Agnes did not hear her, and as she reached the doorway, she started at
the strange position of the parties--Uncle Joseph still smoothing the
curls which drooped over him, and Agnes saying to him: "You heard his
name was Remington, did you not--James Remington?"

Like a sudden revelation it came upon Maddy, and she turned to leave,
when Agnes, lifting her head, called her to come in. She did so, and
standing upon the opposite side of the bed, she said, questioningly:
"You are Sarah Morris?"

For a moment the eyelids quivered, then the neck arched proudly, as if
it were a thing of which she was not ashamed, and Agnes answered:
"Yes, I was Sarah Agnes Morris; once for three months your
grandmother's hired girl, and afterward adopted by a lady who gave me
what education I possess, together with that taste for high life which
prompted me to jilt your Uncle Joseph when a richer man than he
offered himself to me."

That was all she said--all that Maddy ever knew of her history, as it
was never referred to again, except that evening, when Agnes said to
her, pleadingly: "Neither Guy nor Jessie, nor any one, need know what
I have told you."

"They shall not," was Maddy's reply; and from that moment the past, so
far as Agnes was concerned, was a sealed page to both. With this bond
of confidence between them, Agnes felt herself strangely drawn toward
Maddy, while, if it were possible, something of her olden love was
renewed for the helpless man who clung to her now instead of Maddy,
refusing to let her go; neither had Agnes any disposition to leave
him. She should stay to the last, so she said; and she did, taking
Maddy's place, and by her faithfulness and care winning golden laurels
in the opinion of the neighbors, who marveled at first to see so gay a
lady at Uncle Joseph's bedside, attributing it all to her friendship
for Maddy, just as they attributed his calling her Sarah to a crazy
freak. She did resemble Sarah Morris a very little, they said; and in
Maddy's presence they sometimes wondered where Sarah was, repeating
strange things which they had heard of her; but Maddy kept the secret
from every one, so that even Jessie never suspected why her mother
stayed day after day at the cottage; watching and waiting until the
last day of Joseph's life.

She was alone with him then, so that Maddy never knew what passed
between them. She had left them together for an hour, while she did
some errands; and when she returned, Agnes met her at the door, and
with a blanched cheek whispered: "He is dead; he died in my arms,
blessing you and me; do you hear, blessing me! Surely; my sin is now
forgiven?"

CHAPTER XXIL

BEFORE THE BRIDAL.

There was a fresh grave made in the churchyard, and another chair
vacant at the cottage, when Maddy was at last alone. Unfettered by
care and anxiety for sick ones, her aching heart was free to go out
after the loved ones over the sea, go to the elm-shaded mansion she
had heard described so often, and where now two brides were busy with
their preparations for the bridal hurrying on so fast. Since the
letter read in the smoky, October woods, Maddy had not heard from Guy
directly, though Lucy had written since, a few brief lines, telling
how happy she was, how strong she was growing, and how much like
himself Guy was becoming. Maddy had been less than a woman if the last
intelligence had failed to affect her unpleasantly. She did not wish
Guy to regret his decision; but to be forgotten so soon after so
strong protestations of affection, was a little mortifying, and
Maddy's heart throbbed painfully as she read the letter, half hoping
it might prove the last she should receive from Lucy Atherstone. Guy
had left no orders for any changes to be made at Aikenside; but Agnes,
who was largely imbued with a love of bustle and repair, had insisted
that at least the suite of rooms intended for the bride should be
thoroughly renovated with new paper and paint, carpets and furniture.
This plan Mrs. Noah opposed, for she guessed how little Guy would care
for the change; but Agnes was resolved, and as she had great faith in
Maddy's taste, she insisted that she should go to Aikenside, and pass
her judgment upon the improvements. It would do her good, she said--
little dreaming how much it cost Maddy to comply with her wishes, or
how fearfully the poor, crushed heart ached, as Maddy went through the
handsome rooms fitted up for Guy's young bride; but Mrs. Noah guessed
it all, pitying so much the white-faced girl, whose deep mourning
robes told the loss of dear ones by death; but gave no token of that
great loss, tenfold worse than death.

"It was wicked in her to fetch you here," she said to Maddy, one day
when in Lucy's room she found her sitting upon the floor, with her
head bowed down upon the window sill. "But law, she's a triflin'
thing, and didn't know 'twould kill you, poor child, poor Maddy!" and
Mrs. Noah laid her hand kindly on Maddy's hair. "Maybe you'd better go
home," she continued, as Maddy made no reply; "it must be hard, to be
here in the rooms, and among the things which by good rights should be
yours."

"No, Mrs. Noah," and Maddy's voice was strangely unnatural, as she
lifted up her head, revealing a face so haggard and white that Mrs.
Noah was frightened, and asked in much alarm if anything new had
happened.

"No, nothing; I was going to say that I'd rather stay a little longer
where there are signs and sounds of life. I should die to be alone at
Honedale to-morrow. I may die here, I don't know. Do you know that
to-morrow will be the bridal?"

Yes, Mrs. Noah knew it; but she hoped it might have escaped Maddy's
mind.

"Poor child," she said again, "poor child, I mistrust you did wrong to
tell him no!"

"Oh, Mrs. Noah, don't tell me that; don't make it harder for me to
bear. The tempter has been telling me so, all day, and my heart is so
hard and wicked, I cannot pray as I would. Oh, you don't know how
wretched I am!" and Maddy hid her face in the broad, motherly lap,
sobbing so wildly that Mrs. Noah was greatly perplexed, how to act, or
what to say.

Years ago, she would have spurned the thought that the grandchild of
the old man who had bowed to his own picture should be mistress of
Aikenside; but she had changed since then, and could she have had her
way, she would have stopped the marriage, and, bringing her boy home,
have given him to the young girl weeping so convulsively in her lap.
But Mrs. Noah could not have her way. The bridal guests were, even
then, assembling in that home beyond the sea. She could not call Guy
back, and so she pitied and caressed the wretched Maddy, saying to her
at last:

"I'll tell you what is impressed on my mind; this Lucy's got the
consumption, without any kind of doubt, and if you've no objections to
a widower, you may----"

She did not finish the sentence, for Maddy started in horror. To her
there was something murderous in the very idea, and she thrust it
quickly aside. Guy Remington was not for her, she said, and her wish
was to forget him. If she could get through the dreaded to-morrow, she
should do better. There had been a load upon her the whole day, a
nightmare she could not shake off, and she had come to Lucy's room, in
the hope of leaving her burden there, of praying her pain away. Would
Mrs. Noah leave her a while, and see that no one came?

The good woman could not refuse, and going out, she left Maddy by the
window, watching the sun as it went down, and then watching; the
wintry twilight deepen over the landscape, until all things were
blended together in one great darkness, and Jessie, seeking for her
found her at last, fainting upon the floor.

Maddy was glad of the racking headache, which kept her in her bed the
whole of the next day, glad of any excuse to stay away from the
family, talking--all but Mrs. Noah--of Guy, and what was transpiring
in England. They had failed to remember the difference in the
longitude of the two places; but Maddy forgot nothing, and when the
clock struck four, she called Mrs. Noah to her and whispered, faintly:

"They were to be married at eight in the evening. Allowing for
possible delays, it's over before this and Guy is lost forever!"

Mrs. Noah had no consolation to offer, and only pressed the hot,
feverish hands, while Maddy turned her face to the wall, and did not
speak again, except to whisper, incoherently, as she half slumbered,
half woke:

"Did Guy think of me when he promised to love her, and does he, can
he, see how miserable I am?" Maddy was indeed passing through deep
waters, and that night, the fourth of December, the longest, dreariest
she ever knew, could never be forgotten. Once past, the worst was
over, and as the rarest metal is purified by fire, so Maddy came from
the dreadful ordeal strengthened for what was before her. Both Agnes
and Mrs. Noah noticed the strangely beautiful expression of her face,
when she came down to the breakfast-room, while Jessie, as she kissed
her pale cheek, whispered:

"You look as if you had been with the angels." Guy was not expected
with his bride for two weeks, or more, and as the days dragged on,
Maddy felt that the waiting for him was more intolerable than the
seeing him with Lucy would be. Restless and impatient, she could not
remain quietly at the cottage--while at Aikenside, she longed to
return again to her own home, and in this way the time wore on, until
the anniversary of that day when she had come from New York, and found
Guy waiting for her the station. To stay that day in the house so rife
with memories of the dead was impossible, and Flora was surprised and
delighted to hear that both were going up to Aikenside in the vehicle
hired of Farmer Green, whose officiated as driver. It was nearly noon
when they reached their destination, meeting at the gate with Flora's
brother Tom, who said to them:

"We've heard from Mr. Guy; the ship is in; they'll be here sure
to-night, and Mrs. Noah is turnin' things upside down with the dinner."

Leaning back in the buggy, Maddy felt for a moment as if she were
dying. Never until then had she realized how, all the while, she had
been clinging to an indefinable hope, a presentiment that something
might yet occur to spare her from a long lifetime of pain, such as lay
before her if Guy were really lost; but the bubble had burst, leaving
her nothing to hope, nothing to cling to, nothing but black despair;
and half bewildered, she received the noisy greeting of Jessie, who
met her at the door, and dragged her into the drawing-room, decorated
with flowers from the hothouse, told her to guess who was coming.

"I know; Tom told me; Guy is coming with Lucy," Maddy answered, and
relieving herself from Jessie, she turned to Agnes, asking where Mrs.
Noah was, and if she might go to her for a moment.

"Oh, Maddy, child, I'm sorry you've come to-day," Mrs. Noah said, as
she chafed Maddy's cold hands, and leading her to the fire, made her
sit down, while she untied her hood, and removed her cloak and furs.

"I did not know it, or I should have stayed away," Maddy replied; "I
shall not stay, as it is. I cannot see them to-day. Charlie will drive
me back before the train is due; but what did he say? And how is
Lucy?" "He did not mention her. There's the dispatch" and Mrs. Noah
handed to Maddy the telegram, received that morning, and which was
simply as follows:

"The steamer is here. Shall be at the station at five o'clock P. M.
GUY REMINGTON."

Twice Maddy read it over, experiencing much the same feeling she would
have experienced had it been her death warrant she was reading.

"At five o'clock. I must go before that," she said, sighing as she
remembered how, one year ago that day, she was traveling over the very
route where Guy was now traveling with his bride. Did he think of it?
think of his long waiting at the depot, or of that memorable ride, the
events of which grew more and more distinct in her memory, making her
cheeks burn even now, as she recalled his many acts of tenderness and
care.

Laying the telegram on the table, she went with Mrs. Noah through the
rooms, warmed and made ready for the bride, lingering longest in
Lucy's, which the bridal decorations, and the bright fire blazing in
the grate made singularly inviting. As yet, there were no flowers
there, and Maddy claimed the privilege of arranging them for this room
herself. Agnes had almost stripped the conservatory; but Maddy found
enough to form a most tasteful bouquet, which she placed upon a marble
dressing table; then within a slip of paper which she folded across
the top, she wrote: "Welcome to the bride."

"They both will recognize my handwriting; they'll know I've been
here," she thought, as with one long, last, sad look at the room, she
walked away.

They were laying the table for dinner now, and with a kind of dizzy,
uncertain feeling, Maddy watched the servants hurrying to and fro,
bringing out the choicest china, and the glittering silver, in honor
of the bride. Comparatively, it was not long since a little,
frightened, homesick girl, she first sat down with Guy at that table,
from which the proud Agnes would have banished her; but it seemed to
her an age, so much of happiness and pain had come to her since then.
There was a place for her there now, a place near Guy; but she should
not fill it. She could not stay; and she astonished Agnes and Jessie,
just as they were going to make their dinner toilet, by announcing her
intention of going home. She was not dressed to meet Mrs. Remington,
she said, shuddering as for the first time she pronounced a name which
the servants had frequently used, and which jarred on her ear, every
time she heard it. She was not dressed appropriately to meet an
English lady. Flora of course would stay, she said, as it was natural
she should, to greet her new mistress; but she must go, and finding
Charlie Green she bade him bring around the buggy.

Agnes was not particularly surprised, for a vague suspicion of
something like the truth had gradually been creeping into her brain,
as she noted Maddy's pallid face, and the changes which passed over it
whenever Guy was mentioned. Agnes pitied Maddy, for in her own heart
there was a little burning spot, when she remembered who was to
accompany Dr. Holbrook. So she did not urge her to remain, and she
tried to hush Jessie's lamentations when she heard Maddy was going.

One long, sad, wistful look at Guy's and Lucy's home, and Maddy
followed Charlie to the buggy waiting for her, bidding him drive
rapidly, as there was every indication of a coming storm.

The gray, wintry afternoon was drawing to a close, and the December
night was shutting down upon the Honedale hills in sleety rain, when
the cottage was reached, and Maddy, passing up the narrow, slippery
walk, entered the cold, dreary room, where there was neither fire nor
light, nor friendly voice to greet her. No sound save the ticking of
the clock; no welcome save the purring of the house cat, who came
crawling at her feet as she knelt before the stove and tried to kindle
the fire. Charlie Green had offered to go in and do this for her, as
indeed he had offered to return and stay all night, but she had
declined, preferring to be alone, and with stiffened fingers she laid
the kindlings Flora had prepared, and then applying the match, watched
the blue flame as it gradually licked up the smoke and burst into a
cheerful blaze.

"I shall feel better when it's warm," she said, crouching over the
fire, and shivering with more than bodily cold,

There was a kind of nameless terror stealing over her as she at
thinking of the year ago when the inmates of three graves across the
meadow were there beneath that very roof where she now sat alone.

"I'll strike a light," she said, rising to her feet, and trying not to
glance at the shadowy corners filling her with fear.

The lamp was found, and its friendly beams soon dispersed the darkness
from the corners and the fear from Maddy's heart, but it could not
drive from her mind thoughts of what might at that moment be
transpiring at Aikenside. If the bride and groom came at all that
night, she knew they must have been there for an hour or more, and in
fancy she saw the tired, but happy, Lucy, as up in her pleasant room
she made her toilet for dinner, with Guy standing by and looking on.
Just as he had a right to do. Did he smile approvingly upon his young
wife? Did his eye, when it rested on her, light up with the same
expression she had seen so often when it looked at her? Did he commend
her taste and say his little wife was beautiful, as he kissed her
fair, white cheek, or was there a cloud upon his handsome face, a
shadow on his heart, heavy with thoughts of her, and would he rather
it were Maddy there in the bridal room? If so, his burden was hard
indeed, but not so hard as hers, and kneeling on the floor, poor Maddy
laid her head in the chair, and, 'mid piteous moans, asked God, her
Father, to help them both to bear--help her and Guy--making the latter
love as he ought the gentle girl who had left home and friends to live
with him in a far-distant land; asked, too, that she might tear from
her heart every sinful thought, loving Guy only as she might love the
husband of another.

The prayer ended, Maddy still sat upon the floor, while over her pale
face the lamplight faintly flickered, showing the dark lines beneath
her eyes and the tear stains on her cheek. Without, the storm still
was raging, and the wintry rain, mingled with sleet and snow, beat
piteously against the curtained windows, while the wind howled
mournfully as it shook the door and sweeping past the cottage went
screaming over the hill. But Maddy heard nothing of the tumult. She
had brought a pillow from the bedroom, and placing it upon the chair,
sat down again upon the floor and rested her head upon it. She did not
even know that her pet cat had crept up beside her, purring
contentedly and occasionally licking her hair, much less did she hear
above the storm the swift tread of horses' feet as some one came
dashing down the road, the rider pausing an instant as he caught a
glimpse of the cottage lamp and then hurrying on to the public house
beyond, where the hostler frowned moodily at being called out to care
for a stranger's horse, the stranger meanwhile turning back a foot to
where the cottage lamp shone a beacon light through the inky darkness.
The stranger reached the little gate and, undoing the fastening, went
hurrying up the walk, his step upon the crackling snow catching
Maddy's ear at last and making her wonder who could be coming there on
such a night as this. It was probably Charlie Green, she said, and
with a feeling of impatience at being intruded upon she arose to her
feet just as the door turned upon its hinges, letting in a powerful
draught of wind, which extinguished the lamp and left her in total
darkness.

But it did not matter. Maddy had caught a sound, a peculiar cough,
which froze the blood in her veins and made her quake with terror
quite as much as if the footsteps hurrying toward her had been the
footsteps of the dead, instead of belonging, as she knew they did, to
Guy Remington--Guy, who, with garments saturated with rain, felt for
her in the darkness, found her where from faintness she had crouched
again beside the chair, drew her closely to him, in a passionate,
almost painful, hug, and said, oh! so tenderly, so lovingly:

"Maddy, my darling, my own! We will never be parted again."

CHAPTER XXIII.

LUCY.

Hours had gone by, and the clock hands pointed to twelve, ere Maddy
compelled herself to hear the story Guy had come to tell. She had
thrust him from her at first, speaking to him of Lucy, his wife, and
Guy had answered her back: "I have no wife--I never had one. Lucy is
in heaven," and that was all Maddy knew until the great shock had
spent itself in tears and sobs, which became almost convulsions as she
tried to realize the fact that Lucy Atherstone was dead; that the
bridal robe about which she had written, with girlish frankness,
proved to be her shroud, and that her head that night was not pillowed
on Guy's arm, but was resting under English turf and beneath an
English sky. She could listen at last, but her breath came in panting
gasps; while Guy told her how, on the very morning of the bridal, Lucy
had greeted him with her usual bright smile, appearing and looking
better than he had before seen her look since he reached her mother's
home; how for an hour they sat together alone in a little room sacred
to her, because years before it was there he confessed his love.

Seated on a low ottoman, with her golden head lying on his lap, she
had this morning told him, in her artless way, bow much she loved him,
and how hard it sometimes was to make her love for the creature second
to her love for the Creator; told him she was not faultless, and asked
that when he found how erring and weak she was, he would bear with her
frailties as she would bear with his; talked with him, too, of Maddy
Clyde, confessing in a soft, low tone, how once or twice a pang of
jealousy had wrung her heart when she read his praises of his pupil.
But she had conquered that; she had prayed it all away, and now, next
to her own sister, she loved Maddy Clyde. Other words, too, were
spoken--words of guileless, pure affection, too sacred even for Guy to
breathe to Maddy; and then Lucy had left him, her hart-bounding step
echoing through the hall and up the winding stairs, down which she
never came again alive, for when Guy next looked upon her she was
lying white as a water lily, her neck and dress and golden hair
stained with the pale red life current oozing from her livid lips. A
blood vessel had been suddenly ruptured, the physician said, and for
her, the fair, young bride, there was no hope. They told her she must
die, for the mother would have them tell her. Once, for a few moments,
there rested on her face a fearfully frightened look, such as a
harmless bird might wear when suddenly caught in a snare. But that
soon passed away as from beneath the closed eyelids the great tears
came gushing, and the stained lips whispered faintly: "God knows best
what's right. Poor Guy!--break it gently to him."

At this point in the story Guy broke down entirely, sobbing as only
strong men can sob.

"Maddy," he said, "I felt like a heartless wretch--a most consummate
hypocrite--as, standing by Lucy's side, I met the fond, pitying glance
of her blue eyes, and suffered her poor little hand to part my hair as
she tried to comfort me, even though every word she uttered was
shortening her life; tried to comfort me, the wretch who was there so
unwillingly, and who at this prospect of release hardly knew at first
whether he was more sorry than pleased. You may well start from he in
horror, Maddy. I was just the wretch I describe: but I overcame it,
Maddy, and Heaven is my witness that no thought of you intruded itself
upon me afterward is I stood by my dying Lucy--gentle, patient, loving
to the last. I saw how good, how sweet she was, and something of the
old love, the boy love, came back to me, as I held her in my arms,
where she wished to be. I would have saved her if I could; and when I
called her 'my darling Lucy,' they were not idle words. I kissed her
many times for myself, and once, Maddy, for you. She told me to. She
whispered: 'Kiss me, Guy, for Maddy Clyde. Tell her I'd rather she
should take my place than anybody else--rather my Guy should call her
wife--for I know she will not be jealous if you sometimes talked of
your dead Lucy, and I know she will help lead my boy to that blessed
home where sorrow never comes.' That was the last she ever spoke, and
when the sun went down death had claimed my bride. She died in my
arms, Maddy. I felt the last fluttering of her pulse, the last beat of
her heart. I laid her back upon her pillows. I wiped the blood from
her lips and from her golden curls. I followed her to her early grave.
I saw her buried from my sight, and then, Maddy, I started home;
thoughts of you and thoughts of Lucy blended equally together until
Aikenside was reached. I talked with Mrs. Noah; I heard all of you
there was to tell, and then I talked with Agnes, who was not greatly
surprised, and did not oppose my coming here tonight. I could not
remain there, knowing you were alone. In the bridal chamber I found
your bouquet, with its 'Welcome to the bride.' Maddy, you must be that
bride. Lucy sanctioned it, and the doctor, too, for I told him all.
His own wedding was, of course, deferred, and he did not come home
with me, but he said: 'Tell Maddy not to wait. Life is too short to
waste any happiness. She has my blessing.' And, Maddy, it must be so.
Aikenside needs a mistress; you are all alone. You are mine--mine
forever."

The storm had died away, and the moonbeams stealing through the window
told that morning was breaking, but neither Guy nor Maddy heeded the
lapse of time. Theirs was a sad kind of happiness as they talked
together, and could Lucy have listened to them she would have felt
satisfied that she was not forgotten. One long, bright curl, cut from
her head by his own hand, was all there was left of her to Guy, save
the hallowed memories of her purity and goodness--memories which would
yet mold the proud, impulsive Guy into the earnest, consistent
Christian which Lucy in her life had desired that he should be, and
which Maddy rejoiced to see him.

CHAPTER XXIV.

FINALE.

The close of a calm September afternoon, and the autumnal sunlight
falls softly upon Aikenside, where a gay party is now assembled. For
four years Maddy Clyde has been mistress there, and in looking back
upon them she wonders how so much happiness as she has known could be
experienced in so short a time. Never but once has the slightest
ripple of sorrow shadowed her heart, and that was when her noble
husband, Guy, said to her, in a voice she knew was earnest and
determined that he could no longer remain deaf to his country's
call--that where the battle storm was raging he was needed, and like a
second Sardanapalus he must not stay at home. Then for a brief season
her bright face was overcast, and her brown eyes dim with weeping.
Giving him to the war seemed like giving him up to death. But women
can be as true heroes as men. Indeed, it oftentimes costs more courage
for a weak, confiding woman to bid her loved ones leave her for the
field of carnage than it costs them to face the cannon's mouth. Maddy
found it so, but Christian patriotism triumphed over all, and stifling
her own grief, she sent him away with smiles, and prayers, and
cheering words of encouragement, turning herself for consolation to
the source from which she never sued for peace in vain. Save that she
missed her husband terribly, she was not lonely, for her beautiful
dark-eyed boy, whom they called Guy, Jr., kept her busy, while not
very many weeks afterward, Guy, Sr., sitting in his tent, read with
moistened eyes of a little golden-haired daughter, whom Maddy named
Lucy Atherstone, and gazed upon a curl of hair she inclosed to the
soldier father, asking if it were not like some other hair now
moldering back to dust within an English churchyard. "Maggie" said it
was, Aunt Maggie, as Guy, Jr., called the wife of Dr. Holbrook, who
had come to Aikenside to stay, while her husband did his duty as
surgeon in the army. That little daughter is a year-old baby now, and
in her short white dress and coral bracelets she sits neglected on the
nursery floor, while mother and Jessie, Maggie and everybody hasten
out into the yard to welcome the returning soldier, Major Guy, whose
arm is in a sling, and whose face is very pale from the effects of
wounds received at Gettysburg, where his daring courage had well-nigh
won for Maddy a widow's heritage. For the present the arm is disabled,
and so he has been discharged, and comes back to the home where warm
words of welcome greet him, from the lowest servant up to his darling
wife, who can only look her joy as he folds her in his well arm, and
kisses her beautiful face. Only Margaret Holbrook seems a little sad,
she had so wanted her husband to come with Guy, but his humanity would
not permit him to leave the suffering beings who needed his care.
Loving messages he sent to her, and her tears were dried when she
heard from Guy how greatly he was beloved by the pale occupants of the
beds of pain, and how much he was doing to relieve their anguish.

Jessie, grown to be a most beautiful girl of nearly sixteen, is still
a child in actions, and wild with delight at seeing her brother again,
throws her arms around his neck, telling, in almost the same breath,
how proud she is of him, how much she wished to go to him when she
heard he was wounded, how she wishes she was a boy, so she could
enlist, how nicely Flora is married and settled down at the cottage in
Honedale, and then asks if he knows aught of the rebel colonel to whom
just before the war broke out her mother was married, and whose home
was in Richmond.

Guy knows nothing of him, except that he is still doing what he deems
his duty in fighting for the Confederacy, but from exchanged
prisoners, who had come up from Richmond, he has heard of a beautiful
lady, an officer's wife, and as rumor said, a Northern woman, who
visited them in prison, speaking kind words of sympathy, and once
binding up a drummer boy's aching head with a handkerchief, which he
still retained, and on whose corner could be faintly traced the name
of "Agnes Remington."

Jessie's eyes are full of tears as she says:

"Poor mamma, how glad I am I did not go to Virginia with her. It's
months since I heard from her direct. Of course it was she who was so
good to the drummer boy. She cannot be much of a rebel," and Jessie
glances triumphantly at Mrs. Noah, who, never having quite overcome
her dislike of Agnes, had sorely tried Jessie by declaring that her
mother "had found her level at last, and was just where she wanted to
be."

Good Mrs. Noah, the ancient man whose name she bore would as soon have
thought of leaving the Ark as she of turning a traitor to her country,
and when she heard of the riotous mob raised against the draft, she
talked seriously of going in person to New York "to give 'em a piece
of her mind," and for one whole day refused to speak to Flora's
husband, because he was a "dum dimocrat," and she presumed was opposed
to Lincoln. With the exception of Maddy, no one was more please to see
Guy than herself. He was her boy, the one she brought up, and with all
a mother's fervor she kissed his bronzed cheek, and told him how glad
she was to have him back.

With his boy on his sound arm, Guy disengaged himself from the noisy
group and went with Maddy to where the little lady, the child he had
never seen, was just beginning to show signs of resentment at being
left so long alone.

"Lulu, sissy, papa's come; this is papa," the little boy cried,
assuming the honor of the introduction.

Lulu, as they called her, was not afraid of the tall soldier, and
stretching out her fat, white hands, went to him readily. Blue-eyed
and golden haired, she bore but little resemblance to either father or
mother, but there was a sweet, beautiful face, of which Maddy had
often dreamed, but never seen, and whether it were in the infantile
features of his little girl. Parting lovingly her yellow curls and
kissing her fair cheek, he said to Maddy, softly, just as he always
spoke of that dead one:

"Maddy, darling, Margaret Holbrook is right--our baby daughter is very
much like our dear lost Lucy Atherstone."

Book of the day: